Part of Shi Ming’s childhood collection, this comic book is the most influential children’s science fiction work published in 1978 when when China was just starting its economic reform and opening-up to the world.
By the end of the 1970s, people were desperate to fill the cultural vacuum left by the turmoil caused by the Cultural Revolution. Sci-fi authors picked up their pens again in earnest. The most influential book to come out was this Xiao Lingtong Travels to the Future (《小灵通漫游未来》Xiǎo Língtōng Mànyóu Wèilái) written by Ye Yonglie (葉永烈), the pioneer of Chinese science fiction who died on May 15, 2020 at the age of 80.
In the book, the protagonist “Xiao Lingtong”－meaning “little smart” in Chinese－is a reporter visiting “Future City” in “Future World.” There, he finds greenhouse technology, airships, TV watches, contact lenses, 3D movies and plastic objects (not too far from the technology we have today). He also finds a man-made moon, robot servants and immortality.
It was an epochal book that not only opened the door to a brand-new world for Chinese 40 years ago, but also inspired the imagination of young readers of that generation. It remains China’s best-selling science fiction novel and has sold more than 4 million copies. Many Chinese people who grew up in Mainland China during the 70s and 80s still clearly remember how they sincerely believed the inspirational future of the book—a bright world in which technology can end conflict and strife.
“Ye Yonglie was one of the most representative and the most important writers during the 1980s when sci-fi literature witnessed a booming development. I myself have been deeply influenced by his work,” said Liu Cixin, the multi-awarded author of the sci-fi masterpiece Three Bodies.